‘Out with a bang’? Really?

out-bang-really
Today's tabloids, Dec. 21, 2012. ()
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Each day, the New York tabloids vie to sell readers at the newsstands on outrageous headlines, dramatic photography, and, occasionally, great reporting. Who is today's winner?

APOCALIPS: Thank god for Niki Ghazian, a k a "The Persian Barbie," one of FHM magazine's sexiest "girls" (their word) of 2012.

Apparently, the Post was alerted to her belief that the world is going to end tomorrow, and to her strong desire to hook up with a hot guy at a lingerie party tonight so she can go out happy. "Everybody should go out feeling satisfied," she tells the Post, in an apparent bid for publicity in the Mayan afterlife.

Similarly, BB King Blues Club is hosting an "End of the Funking World Party." I was curious whether they were bothering to charge, since presumably the Post using the party as evidence that many New Yorkers believe in the apocalypse and so want to have sex tonight is evidence that BB King's believes it too. I mean who cares how much money you make at your blues club tonight, as long as lots of your guests end up getting to participate in what the Post calls "humanity's steamy climax"?

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It turns out the apocalypse-believers will be disappointed: The performance of Welsh guitarist Eddie Roberts billed as the "End of the Funking World Party" is tomorrow night, a little less than 11 hours after the supposed end of the world. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door. BB King is a great place, but somehow I don't think this will be the Persian Barbie's idea of mood music. (The BB King calendar has listings for the days after the apocalypse, too, and well into next month.)*

Back to Niki Ghazian, who has the entire cover of today's Post. One lucky thing about the apocalypse is that  good-looking people are apparently desperate for sex, though we don't have pictures of the five people and one anonymous Craigslist troll the Post cites to determine whether they're good prospects. Khazian appears in a red push-up bra that shows her cleavage to great advantage next to big black type that reads "OUT WITH A BANG! Model: I want to have sex before the world ends tomorrow." Which makes one wonder whether the model too obscure to general-interest newsstand readers to be named on the front page is the only one whose sex plans for tonight are covered inside. Yes, this is a "trend" piece, though you wouldn't know how much diligent reporting is contained inside from this cover. I don't think it matters.

HERO: Glancing at his paper on the newsstand next to that unbelievably garbagy candy on the newsstand, I imagine Daily News editor Colin Myler is pretty pleased with himself this morning. Not just because of the contrast in taste; poor taste is sometimes a winner. But not here, with the supremely crass headline "OUT WITH A BANG," next to this cover eulogizing a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., who was shot to death in the massacre there last week.

Vicki Soto, the teacher who put herself between the shooter and her students and died in valor, at least allows us to contemplate heroism on that day; a nice, good-natured portrait of the young woman is flamed with the words, "SUPER HERO," and a quote from her eulogy: "She gave her life to save her kids, and if that's not true strength and heroism, I don't know what is."

OBSERVATIONS: But Myler knows better, I'm sure, than to think that his old pal and current rival Col Allan at the Post is regretting his decision. I think the Post is, quietly, responding to the too-controversial-to-be-said-out-loud fact of compassion fatigue among readers. What after all is the grief threshold of the regular reader, unburdened by personal connections to the events in Connecticut? For Newtown, the mourning is just beginning; but on Facebook and elsewhere, the town has been vocal: It's time for you all to move on. I don't think it's out of respect for the privacy of the town that is enduring the tragedy that Allan put The Persian Barbie on his front page, but a calculated response to the uncalculatable phenomenon I've witnessed myself, of people saying they're not reading the papers anymore, because it's too much to bear.

The Post cover, tacky as it is, is a replay of the Nov. 8 cover. Remember, right after superstorm Sandy, when we got a Northeaster? Before that happened, the Post put underwear model Miranda Kerr on its front page next to the headline "GOD HATES US … but we have an angel!" That was a week after the storm passed, and, let's admit that as devastating as the storm was, few of us shed quite the tears for Sandy that we did for Sandy Hook. Allan could not possibly have done the same thing explicitly today; imagine if the text today read, "TRAGEDY IN NEWTOWN, BUT LOOK AT THIS HOT LADY!" It would be offensive on a whole new level.

"OUT WITH A BANG" is a gaffe, in my opinion, even if the Post thinks it's done something very clever.

If the editors wanted to take a break from Sandy Hook funeral rites, they could have put something a little more sober on their cover. Maybe readers are starting to get overwhelmed with the grief beat. But seeing these two papers next to each other will be a reminder of what matters (devastating tragedy, a country facing deep questions about its values and policies) and what doesn't (a fake apocalypse and an underwear model's publicity stunt pegged to it). Newspapers don't always have to be important; they can be fun. But today's contrast does not flatter the Post.

WINNER: Daily News.

CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this post, I mistook the date of the event at BB King; it is not, as the Post seems to suggest but doesn't quite say, tonight, but tomorrow night. Tickets are available here.